Macau will reopen its casinos on Saturday, authorities said as they seek to restart the economy of the Chinese enclave. Casinos were closed for 12 days to curb the worst outbreak of COVID-19. Macau shut all its casinos for the first time in more than two years on July 11 to grapple with the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
As first reported by Casino.org, Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng said that casinos are essential to the SAR’s livelihood, and therefore warrant being among the first businesses permitted to reopen.
While casinos will formally reopen, there will probably be little business for several weeks, as cinemas, fitness and health clubs, as well as beauty parlours, continue to be shut. Residents are still required to stay home apart from those who need to go out for “work, shopping or other urgent reasons,” a statement said according to reports. Authorities will also continue mass coronavirus testing of the city’s more than 600,000 residents.
Macau on July 5 locked down one of the city’s most famous hotels, the Grand Lisboa Palace, after more than a dozen COVID-19 cases was found.
SJM Holdings, a leading casino operator that owns the Grand Lisboa founded by legendary Stanley Ho has been burning through its cash reserves due to China’s zero-Covid regime that has already sent gambling revenues plunging. The total gross gaming revenues in Macau were just $413mn in May, a nearly 90 per cent drop from pre-pandemic levels.
While the Covid19 dust is yet to settle, the licenses of six casinos are set to expire at the year-end after an extension of six months. The Macau SAR Government this month published the new rules for the re-tendering of Macau gaming licenses.
The new law will give Macau officials the power to punish casino operators for everything from under-performing revenue to threatening national security. Gaming taxes have been raised marginally from 39% to 40%, while the new licenses will be given out for up to 10 years, down from the current 20 years.